New York AG and Facebook Reach an Agreement

By Krista Kjellman

Oct 16, 2007 4:30pm

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced today his office has reached an agreement with Facebook aimed at protecting the social networking site’s members "from online sexual predators, obscene content and harassment."  "Our agreement with Facebook offers a new model of cooperative action that balances the freedom offered by the Internet with the necessary protections for children traveling on the information superhighway," Cuomo said of the agreement. Facebook is now required to address "complaints about nudity or pornography, harassment or unwelcome contact" within 24 hours and notify the complainant of progress made in investigating the complaint within 72 hours. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Blotter New York AG Takes on Facebook Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Facebook’s complaint process will also be monitored by an Independent Safety and Security Examiner (ISEE), "a third party approved by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, to report on Facebook’s compliance with the agreement" for two years. "I believe our agreement will provide additional confidence to young people and parents alike and give Facebook a competitive advantage in the marketplace for setting a new standard for safety," Cuomo said. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg echoed Cuomo, saying the agreement sets "new industry standards to stop abuse online." He maintained his company is "committed to working together [with the attorney general's office] to keep Facebook safe." Facebook has more than 47 million users. The agreement comes less than one month after the attorney general subpoenaed the social networking site, threatening consumer fraud charges. In the weeks leading up to the subpoena, AG investigators posing as underage Facebook users were "repeatedly solicited by adult sexual predators" and granted unrestricted access to "a wide range of pornographic images and videos," including such groups as "*For girls that love to share naked pics*" and "Porn Star Trials," according to Cuomo’s letter to Facebook at the time. The review also found that Facebook failed to respond or was slow to respond to complaints filed by investigators posing as the parents of the solicited underage users. In one instance, less than a week after creating a profile, an investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl says he was solicited by a user claiming to be a 24-year-old man. "Do you have any nude pics?" the male user asked. The investigator said he filed a complaint with Facebook as the teen’s mother, only to receive one response saying Facebook "will review the reported material and remove anything that violates our Terms of Use."  According to the Terms of Use posted on the Facebook site at that time, users "agree not to use the Service or the Site to…upload, post, transmit, share or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized…solicitations" nor "solicit personal information from anyone under 18." The 24-year-old man’s profile was still available on the Facebook site at the time of the subpoena. "Parents have a right to know what their children will encounter on a Web site that is aggressively marketed as safe," Cuomo said in September. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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